Watch Tennessee Titans @ Los Angeles Rams as part of the NFL Sunday triple-header live on Sky Sports NFL from 5pm; kick-off at 1.20am in the early hours of Monday morning
Last Updated: 06/11/21 6:13pm
The Los Angeles Rams are firmly locked in to a ‘win now’ mentality in 2021.
Not only is that reflected in their impressive 7-1 record through the first eight weeks of the season, but in the player moves they have made over the last few years – the latest of which coming this week, with All-Pro pass rusher Von Miller arriving in Los Angeles via trade from the Denver Broncos.
The Rams didn’t give up a first-round draft pick on this occasion – 2022 second and third-round picks sent to Denver – but this has been a deliberate ploy in the personnel planning in L.A., one which has seen the team absent from the first round of an NFL Draft since taking Jared Goff No 1 overall in 2016, and they’re not due to return until 2024.
November 8, 2021, 1:10am
The Rams aren’t looking towards the future. Far from it, they revel in the fact that they are bang in the middle of their ‘Super Bowl window’, focussing very much on the present.
“I picked them to win the Super Bowl before the season started,” Good Morning Football presenter Peter Schrager said this week. “I think the Rams are playing ‘lights out’ and I’m going to double down and say this [the Miller trade] only helps towards the cause.
“People criticise the Rams for the fact that they don’t have any draft picks, they burn these first-round picks. They don’t care, that’s not how they play, they care about today. Who is worried about the 2025 NFL Draft right now?
“The Rams are the front-runners in the NFL. And it’s possible, that from Week 17 they don’t have to leave their building all the way through the playoffs – home-field advantage and then the Super Bowl in Los Angeles.”
That’s right. After the NFL had previously never seen a team win a Super Bowl in their home stadium, it could happen in back-to-back years as the Rams look to follow the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ lead in lifting the Vince Lombardi Trophy in the stupendous, brand-spanking new SoFi Stadium on February 13.
Los Angeles has almost certainly played its part in the aggression the Rams have shown in player personnel moves since the franchise’s move there from St. Louis in 2016. A ‘city of stars’, the team sent out onto the field every Sunday certainly reflects that.
Speedster receiver Brandin Cooks came in in 2018 off the back of three 1,000-yard seasons with the New Orleans Saints (two) and New England Patriots (one), then swiftly put up a career-best 1,204-yard campaign in Sean McVay’s explosive offense.
He may since have gone, now with the Houston Texans, but All-Pro corner Jalen Ramsey – a 2020 addition from the Jacksonville Jaguars – remains, while quarterback Matthew Stafford was the blockbuster deal of this offseason, seen as the missing piece to make this a championship-winning side. Both Ramsey and Stafford cost two first-round picks.
On top of that, wide receiver Cooper Kupp – a third-round pick in 2017 – is having a staggering, breakout year, tallying a remarkable 924 yards and 10 touchdown catches at just the midway mark of the season.
And we’ve not yet even mentioned three-time defensive player of the year, the Rams’ quarterback wrecking machine up the middle of their defense, Aaron Donald, the very man who is set to benefit the most from Millers’ arrival as he draws attention away from opposition offensive lines.
“The Rams are a star-built team,” former NFL O-lineman Brian Baldinger told Sky Sports this week. “Stafford is a star, Ramsey is a star, Donald, Kupp. And there’s their head coach, McVay.
“They’re built on five stars, and they’ve just added a sixth in Miller.
“And when their stars play big, the Rams win. They’re loading up, just like when they made the trade for Stafford, for Ramsey. They want stars in Los Angeles – and they want to be playing at home in Super Bowl LVI this year.
“Miller isn’t the Super Bowl 50 MVP version of himself anymore, but he is going to be better in that defense, because of Donald, Leonard Floyd and the other guys they have. It’s a really good system for him.
“If you want to be an elite defensive line, you’ve got to have three guys who can just win. So if one guy is getting double-teamed, the other two guys have got a chance to win one-on-ones. Miller will get a good chunk of one-on-one looks.
“What Les Snead, the general manager, and McVay believe in, it’s working.”
Sticking with the Rams’ stars, Stafford’s 2,477 passing yards this season is second only to Tom Brady’s 2,650, and his has 22 passing touchdowns are the second-most by a Rams player through eight games, with only Hall of Famer Kurt Warner going better with his 24 in their Super Bowl-winning 1999 season where he also won league MVP.
According to Pro Football Focus, Ramsey has allowed a 73.5 passer rating on passes of 10+ air yards, with two interceptions on such targets, tied for the fourth-most among cornerbacks. And this for a shut-down corner who, as such, is rarely thrown to by opposition offenses.
Donald, meanwhile, who leads the league in sacks (90.5) since he was drafted in 2014, currently has five for this season, while the defense as a whole ranks second in the NFL with 3.1 a game.
It’s worrying news for a Tennessee Titans team who face them this Sunday – live on Sky Sports NFL from 1.20am early on Monday morning – who will be without the star of their team, Derrick Henry, with the running back lost to injury.
The loss of Henry could well require the Titans to put the game in their quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s hands, and if they were to do that and become one-dimensional, Donald and Miller on debut could well feast.
“I look at that and go ‘wow’, it’s a game-changing move,” Pro Football Talk‘s Chris Simms said of the Miller trade.
“This puts the Rams in another stratosphere. They’ve got a lot of talent and speed on that defense. How are you going to block three guys who can win one-on-one matchups more times than they don’t?
“I like the Rams because they look at things and say, ‘if we want to get to where we want to go, we need this to be able to beat these teams’.
“How can they not look within their own conference right now at the Bucs, the Dallas Cowboys and the Arizona Cardinals, with their weaponry on offense and think, ‘if we want to win playoff games against them, we need to be able to get to the quarterback’.”
With guys like Donald, Floyd and now Miller they can do that. And they’re already arguably the best team in football.
The Rams get another opportunity to prove that by taking down the Titans and moving one step closer to that ‘home’ Super Bowl on Sunday night.
Watch Tennessee Titans @ Los Angeles Rams as part of the NFL Sunday triple-header live on Sky Sports NFL from 5pm; kick-off at 1.20am in the early hours of Monday morning.